Florida Zachary Wester arrest. Former Florida deputy, Zachary Wester, has been arrested for planting drugs in people’s cars during traffic stop.
Zachary Wester, a former Florida Mango police officer, was arrested Wednesday in Crawfordville for regularly arresting drivers for minor traffic infractions, planting drugs on them and then arresting them on tenure charges, including a victim who lost custody of his daughter due to the arrest.
Wester was arrested after an investigation of almost a year, according to a statement from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The arrest warrant details the pattern with which Wester stopped the drivers for minor offenses and then planted methamphetamine in the vehicles, according to the investigators. During most stops, he violated department policy by not turning off the body camera during the search.
“There is no doubt that Wester’s crimes were deliberate and that his actions put innocent people in jail,” Chris Williams, a special assistant agent in charge of FDLE in Pensacola, said in a statement. Prosecutors had to drop charges in nearly 120 cases that occurred between 2016 and 2018. Jackson County is located about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of Tallahassee along the borders of Georgia and Alabama.
Wester faces criminal charges of criminal association, malpractice of an officer, fabrication of evidence, possession of a controlled substance and false imprisonment. He also faces charges for misdemeanors, possession of a controlled substance and possession of items for drug use.
Benjamin Bowling, who was a passenger in one of the cars stopped by Webster, was arrested and charged with possessing methamphetamine in October 2017. The Florida child welfare agency recently granted back Bowling custody of his daughter after he left prison for a conviction for driving under the influence of drugs.
One of the conditions of his release was to undergo routine drug tests. After his arrest, he did another drug test and was found negative. In addition, he asked to see the video of the camera of the policeman’s body, but he never received it. Bowling had lost custody of his daughter due to detention.
In another case, Wester placed a used syringe with traces of methamphetamine in Joshua Emanuel’s car, according to the arrest warrant. Emanuel told investigators that Wester was smiling and telling him that he was going to jail and that there was nothing he could do about it.
But a Florida Highway Patrol agent who stopped by while Wester searched the car realized that Emanuel was a distant relative whose mother worked for two prominent local lawyers and his father worked in a federal prison. Wester’s attitude changed, and he told Emanuel that he would write in his report that the syringe might have belonged to someone else, authorities said.
The FDLE began investigating Wester in August of last year at the request of the sheriff’s office. He was fired last September. The online court records did not show any lawyers assigned to Wester, who was admitted to the Wakulla County Jail and detained without bail.